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A Chance Meeting

Bree, a place we have seen once before, a place where a monumental meeting occurred, a place where fear was introduced into our bones. Now, as then in the Fellowship of the Ring, Bree fulfills its purpose. Full of shifty characters in whose company no one would want to find themselves, doubting, suspicious and mainly unwelcome. Peter Jackson is there again with his carrot, a role he reprises with great determination. 

Katie Jackson

Man1: “I’m dying of thirst over here. Come on! Come on!”

Bartender: “Here you are.”

Man2: “Thank you kindly.”

Betsy: “Oh, watch it!”

Man3: “Sorry, darling.”

Betsy: “There you are.”

Thorin: “Thank you.”

Man4: “Master Stadle.” 

The Prancing Pony, a mesh of various races enjoying food, drink and a laugh with other patrons. There are a couple of people we already know from the original trilogy. The waitress, Betsy, was the little girl, sitting on the ground with the other kids, listening to the harrowing story of the three Trolls, told by Bilbo. That same little girl is now all grown up and has found a job, apparently. As we all know this little girl’s name is Katie Jackson, daughter of the director himself. 

Kiran Shaw

The other unsung star of the original trilogy, now reappearing in the Hobbit is Kiran Shaw. He was never seen as himself on screen, because he was used primarily as a body double. As he made a name for himself during the production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy it was only appropriate to have him return to production and the screen again.

During the production on the Hobbit trilogy, Kiran Shaw played a vital role in the training of the body doubles of the Dwarves. Many of them have never been on the production of a film, let alone one of these proportions, so they had to be taught everything, from acting to sword-wielding. This was all accomplished with the help of Kiran Shaw who is playing Master Stadle in this scene. 

Betsy brings the food and drink to Thorin for which he is grateful given the fact that he might not have had anything to eat for a while whilst journeying on his own. After the first bite of bread the two figures sitting on either side of the inn, staring at him while he eats, start to move toward him. Slowly but threateningly. Their eyes show clearly that their interest in Thorin is not a friendly one. Seeing that himself, Thorin leaves his food and reaches for his sword, grasping its hilt. At that precise moment, Gandalf interrupts. 

A fine chance

Gandalf: “Mind if I join you? I’ll have the same. I should introduce myself. My name is Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey.”

Thorin: “I know who you are.” 

Gandalf: “Well, now. This is a fine chance. What brings Thorin Oakenshield to Bree?”

Thorin: “I received word that my father had been seen wandering the Wilds near Dunland. I went looking. I found no sign of him.” 

Gandalf: “Thráin.”

Thorin: “You’re like the others. You think he’s dead.” 

Gandalf: “I was not at the battle of Moria.” 

Thorin: “No, but I was.” 

Gandalf, very precisely and concisely introduces himself to Thorin and immediately enquires about the Dwarf’s reason behind his journey. Normally, when one is that nosy about another’s truth and does not have a previously close relationship, the conversation is abruptly halted, and both leave without any additional information.

Although Thorin had heard of Gandalf, he did not have the pleasure of his company, so he cannot know if this is a trustworthy person or not. Gandalf being Gandalf, however, exudes warmth and trust, so Thorin finds no reason not to trust him with his sensitive information. 

It is his personal tragedy he reveals to Gandalf and a belief that his father may well still be alive. Gandalf looks onto Thorin with sadness and compassion. Even though Thorin is not a very emotionally expressive Dwarf, the emotions of loss and pain can be clearly seen on his face. 

Thráin’s disappearance

Thorin: “My grandfather Thrór was slain. Father.”

Thráin: “Stay back.” 

Thorin: “No. I will fight with you.” 

Thráin: “Azog means to kill us all. One by one he will destroy the line of Durin. But by my life he shall not take my son. You will stay here.” 

Thorin: “My father led a charge towards the Dimrill Gate. He never returned. Father! “Thráin is gone”, they told me. “He is one of the fallen.” But at the end of that battle, I searched amongst the slain. To the last body. My father was not among the dead.” 

Gandalf: “Thorin, it’s been a long time since anything but rumor was heard of Thráin.”

Thorin: “He still lives. I am sure of it.” 

The slaughter that the Dwarves endured during the battle of Azanulbizar was one that simultaneously made Thorin into the warrior he is and a King he would become, and the grieving son and grandson of two leaders of the Dwarves.

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Unfailing hope

Although there is no proof to be found on Thráin and his disappearance, Thorin is adamant in his will to find his father. Since he never found him dead on the battlefield, he took it as a sign that he might still be alive. The rumors that had reached his ear ignited his hopes and imagination that his father is somewhere out there in the Wilds still living. 

Finding his father would have given him a foothold in this world in which he was fastly becoming the foothold for his company. He didn’t have anyone in the world apart from his two nephews who themselves needed a guide through their formative years and found one in him. But Thorin remained orphaned and alone ever since the dragon took over the Lonely Mountain. There was only himself to rely upon and only himself as the heir to the throne. 

If there was slight hope of finding his father alive still he would take it and comb every piece of land to find him. 

Thráin’s ring

Gandalf: “The ring your grandfather wore, one of the seven given to the Dwarf lords many years ago, what became of it?”

Thorin: “He gave it to my father before they went into battle.” 

Gandalf: “So Thráin was wearing it when he..when he went missing.” 

Thorin: “Mmm.”

Gandalf: “That’s that then.”

Betsy: “Here you are.”

A somewhat odd thing to ask about a ring. Thorin does not seem to capture the significance of the question and therefore answers it without hesitation. A trivial question no doubt. But what Gandalf has in mind is much more important and dangerous.

The evil of the missing ring

As we have already seen in the first film in the White Council scene, Gandalf’s mention of the rings of power did not startle Saruman or anyone else at the table. They all focused on the peace they were enjoying for the last 400 years, but Gandalf could see the details and cracks in that peace that were connected to the lost Dwarf ring. It just didn’t add up for him. He was never one to let any of his thoughts go. Which is why he enquired about the Dwarf ring before ever setting off with the Dwarves.

What he learned is what scared him most. Not only was Thráin missing, but with him the ring as well, the ring that had the potency to help in rebuilding the evil that plagued Middle-Earth so long ago. 

If Thráin is still alive he could have been captured or taken prisoner by Sauron who would have then taken the ring for himself. But on that subject sometime later. 

Raison d’être

Thorin: “I know my father came to see you before the battle of Moria. What did you say to him?”

Gandalf: “I urged him to march upon Erebor, to rally the seven armies of the Dwarves and to destroy the dragon and take back the Lonely Mountain. And I would say the same to you. Take back your homeland.” 

Thorin: “This is no chance meeting, is it, Gandalf?”

Gandalf: “No. It is not. The Lonely Mountain troubles me Thorin. That dragon has sat there long enough. Sooner or later darker minds will turn towards Erebor.”

And now we come to the real reason behind Gandalf’s coming to Bree. He wanted to speak to the Dwarf himself and rally him and his armies to the cause that has been troubling him for so long. Gandalf does not waste time, thinking it would be easier to just leave the dragon be and hope that one day he might disappear on his own, die or come to death in any other way. It does not have anything to do with fairness toward the Dwarves, not in the least.

Gandalf wants this crusade to happen to save the entire population. He is aware of the fact that other more dangerous and evil characters might be drawn to the mountain, not only for its riches but for the strategic position it occupies. And having a dragon on their side would make it even easier to fight anyone who stands in their way. 

Wanted dead

Gandalf: “I ran into some unsavory characters whilst travelling on the Greenway. They mistook me for a vagabond.” 

Thorin: “I imagine they regretted that.”

Gandalf: “One of them was carrying a message. It is Black Speech. A promise of payment.”

Thorin: “For what?”

Gandalf: “Your head. Someone wants you dead.” 

The written note in Black Speech gives Thorin reason for concern. After he learns the message that refers to his death, his fear of the unknown evil railing against him becomes palpable. He is not safe anywhere anymore. They could be waiting outside the inn door for him. He can never be sure.

The two characters that tried to surround him before Gandalf sat down may have also received the same message. Every character he sees now could have gotten the same message promising payment to anyone who would bring the head of Thorin Oakenshield. And just like that, the world became a much more dangerous place for the Dwarf. 

Burglar

Gandalf: “Thorin, you can wait no longer. You are the heir to the Throne of Durin. Unite the armies of the Dwarves. Together, you have the might and power to retake Erebor. Summon a meeting of the seven Dwarf families. Demand they stand by their oath.” 

Thorin: “The seven armies swore the oath to the one who wields the King’s Jewel. The Arkenstone. It is the only thing that will unite them and in case you have forgotten that jewel was stolen by Smaug.” 

Gandalf: “What if I were to help you reclaim it?”

Thorin: “How? The Arkenstone lies half a world away buried beneath the feet of a fire-breathing dragon.” 

Gandalf: “Yes. It does. Which is why we’re going to need a burglar.” 

And there it is, the conversation that brought about the decision for involving Bilbo Baggins in the quest for the Lonely Mountain. Thorin grabs onto the idea of reclaiming his homeland without any hesitation, if he had the tools necessary for the Arkenstone’s retrieval.

It would have been next to impossible for Thorin or any one member of his company to do it, for the dragon knows that smell of Dwarf and would be easily aroused from his sleep. But a Hobbit is unknown to him which would give advantage to the Dwarves. 

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Image by DonnaSenzaFiato from Pixabay

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